A/N: And so, we're finallly here where the creativity starts flowing. I hope you enjoy this guys, I had alot of fun* writing it.

Ransom for Chapter Fourteen: Six reviews please.

(* as much as could be had. Watch out for some major Erik-self-loathing here guys, I hear it's contagious)


CHAPTER THIRTEEN


You must know by now, Christine, that Erik was a genius.

Artistic, mathematical, architectural, philosophical- he excelled in all arenas and he did so with little grace as to his own superior intellect. I cannot tell you how frustrating it was for him to, at a young age, take my Russian cursing, a language only I knew and use it against me with fluency. He was a regular man in that respect, far too knowledgeable of his own splendour.

However, it also meant that Erik never built, said, designed, invented anything without thinking three steps ahead of everyone around him. I confess that it annoyed me on occasion; Erik constantly spoke to me as though he'd already seen the future and was simply waiting with anticipation for it to come true.

That is why it confused me so when his plans to love you fell apart, Christine. My love for him made me blind too; I could not understand why you would not return his affection, to the man who had sculpted your voice so beautifully. But when I first saw you and the Viscount, I whispered a warning for Erik to be careful and like he did with most things he wanted, he invested his entire being into your relationship.

When it burned, he burned with it. The Erik you left behind was not the Phantom everyone feared, nor the person he had once been before you even arrived. As horribly distorted as he found himself to be, his lust for power, control, vengeance and ultimately possession of you, solnyshka, it ripped through him and I watched the man I love crumble into the darkness he had revelled in.

But the cave was not a creation of that Erik. It was a creation of the Phantom's genius and it too was built three steps ahead of the game…


Winter, 1871
Catacombes
Paris, France


"What are you doing? Margot, what are you doing?" Christine cried out into the darkness but Margot hardened her heart against the screams and ran to Erik's side as he collapsed before his mirrors.

In the course of thirteen years of friendship, she had of course caught glimpses of his unmasked visage but as he felt against the mirrors, his head cracking the delicate glass and splitting it, Margot witnessed her first unrestrained look of Erik's real face and felt hatred for the deformity that had led its owner into cruelty and darkness.

"Erik?" she whispered, kneeling beside him, her hand finding Christine's engagement ring at his feet and squirrelling it away into her soaked green-white dress. "Erik, come we must go."

"You were right, cherie," Erik spoke slowly, painfully. "You were right." He stood, shakily, pacing his cave, running his hands over his face as though he were discovering it for the first time.

"I'm always right," she tried to brush his words off as she tried to keep his shocked and heartbroken mind with her. "But we must go now. Erik, tell me, where is the way out? Tell me?"

Erik simply looked at her, bitterness spread across his face. "Scream cherie," he told her. "I know you must want to."

"Why would I do something so ridiculous?" Margot snapped, listening as the mob began to draw nearer and nearer. "Think Erik, where is the way out?" she knew he must have one. All of the Phantom's creations had a way out, an ingeniously hidden trapdoor or escape route only he knew. It was their only way out before the mob came and tore him apart like a trapped animal.

The unmasked cripple did not respond to her, instead studying the advancing torchlight thoughtfully. "Perhaps I should not escape, cherie. Would the world be happier then?" he mused as Margot grabbed a spare coat that had been thrown in the corner and tugged it around his shoulders.

Margot could hardly bear to hear such words come out of his mouth and grabbed the lapels of his shirt tightly, yanking him toward her, furiously. "Snap out of this Erik, we have to leave, before they come! Where is the way out?" she begged, nearly hysterical.

Erik disconnected her, staring into the mirror behind him. "You should stay Margot," he said quietly. "They will only attack me. You can pretend I kidnapped you as well, they all know how I love to do that."

"Erik, please." She breathed, searching the walls for some lever, some catch that would allow them passage. "Where can we go?"

The Phantom rubbed his eyes. "Why cherie? Why should I leave?"

Margot closed her eyes for a moment and clutched fistfuls of his shirt so tightly in her fingers that her knuckles turned white and tensed under her skin. She leant down, purposely into his right ear.

"To spare me the sight of having the man I love torn apart by a vicious mob." She whispered, fiercely. "You're a fool if you think the Viscount will let me live should I return with them; they think I'm dead, let it stay that way. Now tell me where is the way out?"

It would surprise Margot for years to come that Erik's stupefied form had gestured to the velvet robe covered mirror behind her.

Too pressed for time to consider the sheer stupidity of confessing her feeling for Erik now, Margot stood and grabbed one of the candle holders, a heavy brass ornament, from his organ and heaved all the strength she had in her body at the mirror.

It shattered immediately, the glass sounding as delicate and tinkling as the highest notes of the first flute, and grabbing Erik's arm, Margot pulled him into the hollow revealed behind it, tugging the velvet down after them just as the torchlight began to flicker before the lake's wide mouth.


Erik being Erik, the way out of his cave was not an easy trek. It was a steep climb upwards, through mud and slime and icy stone. Margot could barely keep her breaths even as she beckoned Erik along, all the while painfully conscious of the voices echoing behind her.

After nearly twenty minutes of climbing, Margot felt her hand catch on a lever cleverly hidden in the darkness which unleashed a rockslide that buried anyone trying to follow the pair. Margot would have marvelled at the cleverness of Erik's plan had she not been exhausted.

All the way up, between fearing the mob behind them and remembering Christine's screams and Raoul's sword pressed to her neck, Margot berated herself for confessing such feelings for Erik. She could hardly look at him, her humiliation so great. How could she have thought such words appropriate? So immediately after his Angel and muse had deserted him in favour of a most hated enemy?

As they began to reach the surface however, Margot scolded herself even more thoroughly for fretting over such ridiculous thoughts rather than worry over their survival.

The opera house was all Erik had ever known and though Margot was sure he had a plan for survival, having exited the narrow climb, she was unsure that asking for it and preparing to reshape it to fit themselves was a task she could accomplish. He plotted this for his life with Christine, she thought, painfully. How would she fit into such a plan?

But no matter. She must. The alternative was too horrible to think of. Margot straightened as they reached the peak of their climb, the Paris traffic echoing loud above her through the grate covering the entrance to the drain. She was the only one who could help now; Erik's distorted, unmasked face was too recognisable. He would be caught within seconds. He could not be allowed to save them this time.

Faced with the prospect of keeping Erik alive and safe from the mobs, Margot watched Erik opened the drainage grate above her with trepidation. She had no idea what she was doing but her goal was simple: to keep Erik hidden and alive.

Shaking with exertion, Margot examined the alley they had exited into and quickly realised Erik's plans as she noticed the simple but somewhat expensive Hotel du Mars they were hiding in the shadows of. "I would have stayed here with her," Erik whispered, his tone self-loathing. "Once she brought me into the light."

Holding her tongue against a thousand Russian curses concerning Christine and the legitimacy of her mother's birth, Margot studied the somewhat calmer Parisian street and the carriages which passed frequently by. No doubt Erik would have reservations but they needed to get to them.

Her mind suddenly unravelling with ideas, she scooped up the mud from the tunnel and pressed it over the right side of Erik's face, gently but forcefully. "Follow me," she demanded, splattering the mud across her own body as well.

She tugged Erik toward the front reception of the Hotel du Mars and, upon seeing no one at the desk, tugged open the coat closet behind the manager's desk and grabbed the first thick furs she could find, as well as a luxurious top hat and scarf and a cane from the umbrella holder.

"Put these on!" she hissed, tugging one of the furs on herself while she rang the bell impatiently. Erik followed her suggestions, his usual confidence withered in the face of society. The manager of the hotel, a scrawny man with a thin moustache arrived, concern and repulsion evident in his expression. "Yes?" he drawled and Margot took the lead, channelling every one of her characters and stories into her words.

"Monsieur, thank goodness!" she said, desperately, clutching at his arm. "We arrived so late, we were worried no one would help us!"

"Madame, may I help you?" the manager asked, sceptically.

"I hope so," she breathed, batting her eyelashes. "You see we arrived at the Gare de Lyon station but our luggage was lost on the train and then the carriage splattered us with mud and we simply want to retire to our rooms for the evening-!"

The manager's face was pink as he nodded along with Margot's story and barely glanced at Erik to certify it. "W-Well Madame, I need a name for the reservation," he stuttered.

Margot paused for a split second before she took a leap of faith; after all, Erik had intended to start his new life with Christine here, what other room would he have ordered? "The honeymoon suite monsieur!" she cried out, tears in her eyes. "We rented it months ago!"

Her wailing was obviously distressing to the manager who bustled around his desk and fingered the slips of paper there. "Madame, please do not cry-! Let me see, let me see…Dupperay, Forson, Thierry- aha! Pierre! Monsieur and Madam Pierre, in the honeymoon suite!" the manager stuttered, relieved as Margot began to 'calm herself'.

Offering to show them to their room as Margot took the keys, the manager looked eager to keep his newest guest from wailing. Congratulating herself on the amazing improvisation, Margot refused to allow herself peace until they had made it to the room and locked the door behind them. "No monsieur, we have already disturbed you enough," she claimed, regretfully. "Please, won't you have water sent to our suite and let us all rest after our horrible evening?"

"Yes, of course, Madame," the manager rushed to send orders to the maid as Margot pulled Erik toward the stairs and up to the second level where their room lay. "Will that be all monsieur?" the manager echoed but Erik did not respond and frantically, Margot pulled back on the manager's arm, gently.

"I apologise for my husband, monsieur, he is so angry from the journey, he doesn't wish to lose his temper on someone so accommodating." She said with a pretty smile.

"Then I bid you goodnight Madame," the manager said, sounding unsure whether he was quite aware of what had just happened as the door shut behind the couple.

Margot let herself breathe finally as Erik collapsed by the bed, his eyes flat through the mud caking his face. "Your surname is Pierre?" Margot guessed, trying desperately to ignore the last words she'd said to him.

"No but I would have shared it with her," Erik murmured, his voice sounding distant. "I would have shared anything with her."

Margot turned, finally realising the physical symptoms of the night's shock in his foggy voice, glossy eyes and weak limbs. She remembered from the brief split second glances of him in the tunnels, of how she had noticed his hands shaking with every climb and thought nothing of it but the chill.

Illness from a broken heart? Margot had never heard such a thing but she suspected that it stretched further than simply one night; Erik had neglected meals and health for weeks leading up to Don Juan Triumphant and it appeared to be sinking in now.

When the water pitchers arrived by a maid, Margot took them in at the door politely and poured out the liquid into a bowl by Erik's side at the foot of the queen sized bed. She pulled off the furs that had become stuck to her skin because of the mud and slowly began to wipe away the grime from her own hands and face with a towel from the en-suite.

"Here," she said, quietly, helping him clean off the mud.

"I would have shared anything with her…" he murmured.

"I know." Was all Margot could reply.


As she soon discovered, the honeymoon suite had been allocated to them for at least a week and Margot felt relieved for the prepaid room as Erik succumbed further to fever and malnutrition.

He eventually moved himself to the bed and Margot took the stuffed couch at night, though she was up constantly to grab more water or calm the man down when his fever took him. Recalling everything she could about how she had aided her uncle when he had succumbed to a similar disease as influenza, Margot tried to keep the room stocked with food and fresh water and everything she needed to help Erik recover. She was surprised at how well he had held sickness off but it was hitting him now with a vengeance.

Margot took the already paid for meals the maids brought to her room gratefully and asked the manager if he should mind leaving their suite alone from housecleaning. "We do not wish to be, ahem, disturbed." She'd sent him her best flirtatious look as she'd giggled and the manager had not been heard from since.

All the while feeling a touch mortified, Margot had continued playing the role of blushing honeymooner and asked one of the younger maids to bring her and her 'husband' some new clothes, telling her to ask the manager to reimburse her out of their room costs. "He is so aggressive," Margot had whispered, blushing. "We have ruined the clothes we did have."

The giggling maid had done just that and found, upon Margot's instructions, a pair of gowns, one pale blue and the other a soft brown, a headscarf and hat for her and a new, plain brown and white ensemble for Erik, though he was hardly in the frame of mind to try them on for size. Erik's fever brought him nightly delusions and Margot worked hard to get enough food in him to fight the sickness of.

"Eat something," she ordered one night when Erik had overpowered the illness for a short time. Though he complied and ate as much of the rich food as Margot ordered, all without a word, she knew that his mind had captured her confession in the caves and that it was ticking away with ways of progressing from there.

Margot could not afford the time needed to think of such things; she had gone out one morning toward the end of their stay at the Hotel du Mars and picked up a paper, all the while hiding her face in the depths of her scarf. The newsboy on the corner was preaching his story of the mysterious Populaire disaster and while she told herself it was for research into their next actions, Margot was desperate to discover the result of the evening.

The paper had little information other than the deaths in the fire Erik had caused with the chandelier, the return of the lovely soprano Miss Daae to her now husband, the Viscount, and of course, the appearance and disappearance of a certain Phantom.

Margot felt pleased to see her name went unmentioned by the article but fretted over its attention to detail concerning the twisted, demonic half face of the Phantom of the Opera as it appeared to the audience. Erik, while recovering finally, could not leave the room without someone most certainly discovering him.

Though Margot hated to do it, she had to give the Phantom back his mask.


"I cannot Margot!" Erik hissed as she threw his clothes toward him. Though still weak from the illness, his fever had broken and the work toward health was all downhill from that point.

"You must." She said, firmly. "We need money Erik, this is the last day of our stay and I need another to work out our next move."

"Then you go," he gasped, taking the clothes if only to cover his torso which bore the whip marks and scars of his former life with the gypsies.

Margot felt as though she could smack him. They had yet to say anything about her confession and it weighed on her nerves. "They are your accounts!"

There was no doubting Erik had amassed a fortune embezzling money from the managers of the Populaire and having Madame Giry invest it all in certain ventures which had paid off quite well. His money was kept, surprisingly, in a vault at the Banc du Lafayette though he had never had to access much of it before. His clothes, supplies and food all came from the Populaire itself and Erik had had no need to dig into his funds before.

But we are not under the Populaire now, Margot thought, frustrated. And I need another day.

Her plan had almost formed itself, for now revolving around moving them away from Paris, perhaps away from France entirely. The Viscount no doubt knew the Phantom could be alive and she doubted if the irritating bastard could resist trying to track down Erik once and for all.

She had almost come up with a way but she needed another night.

"I cannot go and claim money from them Erik, you know how banks work." She said, scornfully as she wrapped her scarf about her head and tossed his coat at him. Still no words about her confession.

Erik scowled. "And how do you suppose I go out?" he hissed, gesturing to his uncovered face. "The Phantom's mask is gone now Margot."

Margot regretfully brought the bandages and surgical tape she had asked the maid for. "We shall give you a new mask then."


"Monsieur Pierre, is it?" the bank manager asked, eyebrows raised. They had been ushered to his office upon asking to withdraw money from Erik's account and Margot felt a thrill of nerves down her spine. "May I ask the reason as to extracting your francs? Our records show you never have before."

Margot could feel Erik tensing at his side and she stepped, forward, smiling sweetly. "Monsieur, my husband, he was injured in the fire at the Populaire," she murmured, discreetly. "There is a doctor doing much work for such victims but we wish to pay our fee, more discreetly. Thomas," she said, grabbing the name of Madame Giry's late husband. "is a very important businessman back home- it would not do for him to be seen spending money as such."

The story was carried off by Erik's closed of demeanour and the bandages wrapped around his face, covering the right side from view.

The bank manager's face revealed his interest in her story. "You saw the masked man of the opera house?" he said, gossipy.

Margot floundered for an instant as Erik cut in, bitterly. "You mean the masked monster?"

"Well yes," the bank manager said, surprised at his sudden interjection. "You saw him?"

"We did and I've no wish to think of anything so disgusting again." Erik proclaimed, his tone cutting.

The bank manager, looking abashed, transferred the withdrawal through without complaint.

As they arrived back at the Hotel du Mars and paying out another day in their suite, Margot paused, unable to keep her comments inside herself. "Why did you say that? To the bank manager?"

"I said nothing that was untrue." His tone nearly frightened her with the abhorrence in it as he tossed his coat to the side and stared hatefully at the brightly lit window.

Margot, having tugged off her scarf, moved slowly towards him, worried at this sudden turn of intense self-hatred. "You are not 'disgusting' Erik, you're a man. A human being."

"And yet I feel as though I've finally become to devil's child the gypsies always proclaimed me to be." he argued, icily.

"How can you say such things?" Margot demanded, anger and shock in her voice.

"I have killed innocent people," he turned, furiously, his good eye glinting. "I have hurt innocent people, all to get what I want. I thought I deserved it, I thought life owed me something but I was sorely mistaken. She," a week after the incident and Erik could still not bring himself to say her name. "never wanted me yet I refused to see."

"That's not true," Margot rebutted quietly. "The love you shared with Christine-"

"Shared?" Erik exploded. "No, sharing is mutual. She never loved me and I persisted. I injured people, blackmailed them, threatened them, all because I thought she owed me her affections. Dear God, Margot, just look at what I have done to you!"

"Erik, I've all but forgotten that day!" she cried out, recalling her fear as he pressed his hands to her throat. It felt so long ago now. "Your anger that day- I've forgiven it-!"

"That day?" Erik gave a bitter laugh. "No, I speak of that night. I've ruined you, Margot. I coerced you into the illusion of loving a monster."

Though Margot had thought of this conversation many times in her head, it had never ended like this. "What do you mean, coerced me? Erik, I love y-"

"Don't repeat it!" he said, scathingly. "I've manipulated you into believing such feelings somehow, they cannot honestly be true."

Margot felt as though he could have slapped her and have it hurt less. "You don't believe me?" she whispered.

"I've torn you from the Populaire, I have preyed upon your kindness in helping me." Erik refused to turn away from the window. "Loving a Ghost is impossible, cherie, it cannot be real."

Before he could say anything else that might destroy her already battle-worn heart, Margot grabbed her worn purse from the vanity and fled the hotel.


A/N:

Who's your favourite character so far?